No Sitting Down for an Entire Month

“If you sit down more than 11 hours a day, one study suggests, you’re 40 percent more likely to die in the next three years than I am. I’m standing up. I’ve been standing up all day. I’ll be standing up all month, in fact, without a break. I expect at the end of that month I’ll be sore but triumphant, glowing with smug enlightenment,” Dan Kois writes in New York Magazine.

“Reading the research, I’ve become convinced that sitting around all day is the worst thing I do to my body—that, like smoking, plopping down on our collective ass makes us profoundly likelier to die earlier. The effects have nothing to do with regular exercise; indeed, it seems that being sedentary when you’re not exercising eliminates many of its benefits. Sitting all day lowers your good cholesterol and raises your risk of diabetes. Sitting down, you burn a single measly calorie each minute.”

“And so a growing cadre of lean, mean, self-satisfied office workers are exploring standing or even walking on a treadmill at work. They’re trying to maximize their vigor, and also the tiny muscle movements that standing fosters—weight-shifting, stretching, walking around. Sitters, meanwhile, are basically already corpses: Their “muscles go as silent as those of a dead horse,” a researcher memorably told The New York Times Magazine.”

“If sitting at work is terrible for me, shouldn’t I stop? And if I do, shouldn’t I stop sitting everywhere? I decided to spend a month on my feet: 30 days never being a couch potato, an office slug, a sitting duck. The exceptions, agreed upon with my editor: I would sit to drive (but would strive to take the train); I would sit when nature called. I would also sit to put my shoes on, I decided this morning after falling over trying to put on my shoes. I would lie down to sleep, although I surely wouldn’t need sleep, given that I’d be so healthy.”

How Prolonged Sitting Can Hurt You

The risks of too much sitting and not enough standing are much discussed on this blog — what we’ve often referred to as “Sitting is the New Smoking.”

The call to stand also exists overseas: offers a range of information on the risks of too much sitting, as well as how to address the problem — particularly in the workplace. It also offers a nifty “Sitting Calculator.”

According to the site, “in recent years a variety of major international research (see below) has produced compelling evidence that sitting more than 4 hours each day leads to:

  • “The enzymes responsible for burning fat shutting down”
  • “Reduced metabolic rate”
  • “Stopping of the electricity flow in the legs”

The site further reveals the Top 10 risks from too much sitting, noting that “these risks grow significantly for people who sit longer than 4 hours each day:”

  1. Heart / Cardiovascular disease
  2. Diabetes
  3. Cancer
  4. Obesity
  5. High blood pressure
  6. Muscle degeneration
  7. Back ache / Neck pain
  8. Osteoporosis
  9. Depression
  10. Dementia

Sitting Is as Bad for You as Smoking

Dr. Michael Jensen, from the Mayo Clinic, told KDKA Radio that the average worker “spends over five hours and 40 minutes sitting at their job every day and a new study says it’s bad for your health, with some claiming the long-term effects of sitting can be as bad as smoking.”

To find out whether the test subjects in the study were sitting or not, Dr. Jensen says one of his colleagues, Dr. James Levine, invented underwear that can “tell whether you’re sitting, standing, or lying down essentially every half second of the day.”

With the data they gathered and studied, they came to the conclusion that people need to move around more. Dr. Jensen says they found, “that people who are overweight tend to spend a lot more time sitting then people who have not gained weight.”

Interestingly, a trip to the gym for 30 minutes or an hour may not be enough to combat all the time spent sitting. According to Dr. Jensen, “sitting is independently associated with greater risk of dying of heart disease [and] diabetes, even when you try to account for exercise.”

Runner’s World: “There’s no running away from it: The more you sit, the poorer your health and the earlier you may die, no matter how fit you are.”

Planned Disruptions May Reduce Workplace Sitting Time

An intervention to disrupt prolonged sitting time seems to result in less sitting in the workplace, according to a study published online May 1 in the U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention’s Preventing Chronic Disease.

From HealthDay News:

“The researchers found that there were significant reductions in both groups in the number and duration of sitting bouts. Significant reductions were seen in the Stand group for total sitting time (6.6 percent), duration of the longest sitting bout (29 percent), and the number of sitting bouts lasting 30 minutes or longer (13 percent), while increases were seen in the number of sit-to-stand transitions (15 percent) and standing time (23 percent). Significant increases in stepping time occurred in the Stand and Step groups (14 and 39 percent, respectively), but only the Step group had a significant increase in the number of steps per workday (35 percent). There were no significant differences in changes from baseline to intervention between the groups.”

Got 2 Minutes? Get Up and Walk. And Turn Off the Television.

While much in life can feel complicated, two new studies and a New York Times report offer some simple guidance for improving one’s healthy outcomes: Walk for two minutes and turn off the television.

Of course, it’s not quite that simple. But as the New York Times states: “As most of us have heard by now, long bouts of sitting can increase someone’s risk for diabetes, heart disease, obesity, kidney problems and premature death. These risks remain elevated even if someone exercises but then spends most of the rest of his or her waking hours in a chair.”

One new study comes from researchers at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, titled “Light-Intensity Physical Activities and Mortality in the United States General Population and CKD Subpopulation.” They conducted “observational analysis of the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey examined the associations of low- and light-intensity activities with mortality.”

According to the New York Times:

“What they found was unexpected. A low-intensity activity like standing, by itself, had little effect on mortality risk… But those who walked around after standing, replacing some of their sitting time with a light-intensity activity like strolling, gained a substantial benefit in terms of mortality risk.” Even two minutes of gentle walking was associated with lower premature death rates (key: the study notes association, not causality).

And then there’s the television.

Another study to be published in Diabetologia :

“The impact of lifestyle intervention on sedentary time in individuals at high risk of diabetes” — found, according to the New York Times, “that every hour that overweight adults spent watching television, which is a handy way to measure sitting time at home, increased their risk of becoming diabetic by 3.4 percent. Most of the participants were watching nearly three hours a day.”

The study concluded: “Individuals with lower levels of sedentary time had a lower risk of developing diabetes. Future lifestyle intervention programmes should emphasise reducing television watching and other sedentary behaviours in addition to increasing physical activity.”

University Expert to Office Employees: Stop Sitting So Much

We have been very consistent about the risks of sitting too much at work and the importance of making regular movement a key feature in any well-run workplace wellness program.

Recently we posted Murat Dalkilinç’s engaging, useful, and educational video for Ted-Ed: Why sitting is bad for you. The text intro states: “Sitting down for brief periods can help us recover from stress or recuperate from exercise. But nowadays, our lifestyles make us sit much more than we move around. Are our bodies built for such a sedentary existence?”

We also reported on a study published in The American Journal of Physiology — Endocrinology and Metabolism, which directly compared exercisers who also sit extensively with those who are more active generally. The findings suggest that a single vigorous workout may do little to counter the effects of prolonged sitting, while strolling around frequently in addition to exercising does seem to keep the harm at bay.”

The study is titled “Prolonged sitting negatively affects the postprandial plasma triglyceride-lowering effect of acute exercise.” It concludes that the test results “[underscore] the importance of limiting sitting time even in people who have exercised.”

Now an instructor with Creighton University’s new Healthy Lifestyles Management program discussed the issue with KETV-Omaha, which reports: “hat chair or couch you’re sitting on right now may shorten your life. Most of us spend 13 hours or more a day sitting down and experts say that’s eating away at your health and perhaps your life span, just as much as smoking cigarettes might harm your health.”

Creighton’s Linda Kenedy “did an interview, standing at her computer. She uses a convertible desk that allows her to sit or stand. She said sitting too much is killing Americans and aiding in increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, depression and cancer.”

Said Kenedy: “When you sit, your body just kind of shuts down. Your body is meant to move and when we sit at work all day, we’re in a position of rest, so we’re not burning as many calories, our muscles aren’t firing.” .

The piece continues: “Kenedy said taking frequent breaks from sitting, say 5 minute every hour, can make all the difference. ‘When we stand, our back, your core, your muscles are turned on, functioning as they’re supposed to. And they’re holding up your spine and head and neck. our posture is better than when we’re sitting,’ she said.”

“Kenedy encourages standup meetings, and taking the long route to the copy machine or bathroom to work in more steps during the day.”

The video interview with Kenedy can be found here.